MIT scientists are looking for DNA on Mars


Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute for Technology (MIT) and NASA are building a DNA detector to search for evidence of life on Mars.

(Article by Andrew Follett from

MIT and NASA think rocks flying between Earth and the Red Planet may have contained micro-organisms capable of surviving the environments of both worlds. Researchers think finding DNA on Mars would likely indicate a shared ancestry between Earth and the Red Planet.

“At the time, there was something going on called the Late Heavy Bombardment, and meant the inner solar system was being hit with lots and lots of meteorites,” Dr. Alexandra Pontefract, a geologist at MIT working on the project, said in a press statement. “There was a big exchange of rocks between Mars and Earth. There have been studies that have shown biology can survive being ejected from a planet and survive in space. We know it’s possible; it’s really amazing.”

The DNA detector will begin field testing in Argentina later this month. Ultimately, scientists hope to send a DNA detector to Mars on a future rover or manned mission to determine if any potential Martian life would share an ancestry with Earth.

The earliest potential evidence of life on Earth is 3.5 billion years old, but evidence of potential life from before that period has mostly been destroyed by plate tectonics. However, primitive life could have been most suited to survive on Mars. The first multi-cellular animals did not appear on Earth until about 600 million years ago and were not diversified until roughly 542 million years ago in the Cambrian explosion.

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